Interview: 52 Portraits - 'An epic love song to an art form'

Friday 8 January 2016 by Carmel Smith

Kwame Asafo-Adjei in '52 Portraits'

52 Portaits, a new online project from Jonathan Burrows, Matteo Fargion and Hugo Glendinning, has just been launched. Described by Fargion as ‘an epic love song to an art form’, each week will see a new video portrait of a dance artist published. Some will be well known , others are emerging artists; all will be filmed using the same format. As the first film (of London based Kwame Asafo-Adjei) appeared, we asked Jonathan Burrows to tell us more about the project…


Where did the idea for 52 Portraits come from?
It came from me trying to think of a way for Matteo and I to make a larger piece, in this case a year long piece, but without changing how we work. So the portraits remain on a human scale, and build on our idea of performance as being a meeting between spectator and performer, mediated in this case by the brilliant camera work of Hugo Glendinning, who has collaborated on this from the start. So the person watching is probably sat at a table looking at a laptop, and the performer in the video is seated opposite. And I like the idea of engaging with and challenging the way we use video clips on social media.

How do you go about choosing your subjects?
As far as who we invite is concerned it should be people whose work we love, and who have some strong link to the London scene in all its manifestations. And our choices should honour younger artists who some people maybe don’t know yet, as well as older artists. And Matteo and his daughter Francesca will sing their biographies and thoughts, verbatim, to a tune of their choice. Two things that have come out of this interview process so far, are how resonant it is to hear why people dance, and how reassuring it is to hear stories that contradict the usual image of the dancer as a special angelic being. And each portrait is a postcard or a haiku of that person, free of the usual overload of information.

Have you already found the 52?
Of course if I really followed my heart, I would film so many people the piece would be five years long. But we follow our noses and see who’s around and go forwards with whatever happens, and whoever gets filmed or doesn’t get filmed, nevertheless the project is in a sense what Matteo calls ‘an epic love song to an art form’.

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